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ETC helps California Theatre go all LED

Thanks to a lot of careful research, the right conditions and the advanced features of ETC’s LED luminaires, Sunnyvale Theatre in California now has a new LED-only lighting system.

The venue’s previous lighting system was installed in 1992, but after 20 years of service, the theatre had trouble with its control desk, transformers needed replacement, and the power supply in its 140 dimmers no longer worked and couldn’t be serviced.

Staff began looking at new solutions, and considered three different systems: conventional (tungsten) only; hybrid (both tungsten and LEDs); or all-LED. They worked with ETC dealer Musson Theatrical, got support from ETC representative Wunder Lighting and Controls, did cost analyses, tried out a lot of different equipment and assessed the needs of the theatre, in order to weigh the three systems against each other. They took the first step toward a new system by purchasing an ETC Ion lighting control desk, knowing it could handle any fixtures they chose.

After being impressed by a Source Four LED demonstration run by Musson, Sunnyvale Theater Technical Coordinator Bill Rupel convinced the city’s management and purchasing office to release extra funds to buy five Source Four LED units so his staff could experiment with them in typical production situations. “We worked them hard,” described Bill. “We used them as specials, for colour and black and white patterns, and we were popping lenses in them.” The staff had them set up side by side with conventional fixtures and saw that the ETC LED luminaires could be used all over the stage and in any position. 

“We wanted to show the theatre staff that this technology was going to be bright enough and versatile enough,” said Dinna Myers, Musson’s Director of Sales and Marketing, “and that it had the kind of longevity they needed for this kind of investment.” 

Sunnyvale eventually chose to install Source Four LEDs and Selador Desire D60 Lustr+ luminaires for front of house and on stage lighting, and 40 Selador Classic LED battens to illuminate the cyclorama from above and below. They also added ETC Sensor3 power control racks with ThruPower, which have both dimmer modules and relay modules. That way, if a visiting lighting designer wanted to use the conventional Source Four fixtures that the theatre keeps in stock, they could power both the tungsten and LED luminaires. 

The previous connectors across the building were swapped for Edison connectors, to ensure that the fixtures would be plugged into the right circuits. Said Bill: “The benefits have far outweighed any downside. With this system, the possibilities are huge.”

Despite the higher up front cost of the fixtures, the theatre staff have calculated that installing only LED luminaires will save them a lot of money over time. They didn’t have to purchase two new transformers at a cost of £47,000, or pay electrical contractors to run more conduit and install more copper throughout the building. The fixtures also reduced maintenance saving them £600 per year. But the biggest savings come from the reduced power it takes to run the LEDs. The theatre has cut its energy expenditures by 80% – a total of some £10,000 a year. 

“This is a landmark event," said Mike Wunder of Wunder Lighting and Controls. “Because no theatrical fixture has ever been approved for a rebate and it’s also the first colour-changing LED to make the list.”

“We used the installation to show the local entertainment technology community what they can do with ETC LEDs,” said Dinna. “ETC LED fixtures really can dim like the traditional theatrical sources we’re used to. Designers will be satisfied with the colour shift, they won’t sacrifice intensity, and their lights are not going to flicker. This technology works in this application, and it’s time to embrace it.”





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